When To Use Lagging And Leading Indicators In Safety

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics or insights that help you measure the progress of your organisation’s goals. This data is crucial for the success of any safety system. They can be divided and evaluated according to various categories including leading and lagging.

Often, people confuse lagging and leading indicators. These are types of indicators that show different factors that are dependent on time. This article will explain the difference between lagging vs leading in safety metrics. It will also share how you can use the respective data for your health and safety programs.

What Are Lagging Indicators?

Lagging indicators are metrics used for reflection and measuring current progress on safety. They tell you about the now as well as the past. These indicators point to output and performance. 

Often, lagging metrics are easier to measure because you can look to the past or your current state. In safety, this can be a reflection on accidents and incidents that have already occurred and the potential causes and factors.


What Are Leading Indicators?

Leading indicators, on the hand, are much trickier than lagging ones as they involve prediction. They point to potential actions, behaviours, and decisions that can help you reach specific goals.

For your organisation’s safety efforts, leading indicators allow you to identify potentially harmful factors in advance. You can use this foresight to plan and predict future incidents.


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How Do You Know Which Indicators To Use In Safety?

To know which indicators to use for your safety program, you need to define your goals. What are you trying to achieve? Are you hoping to resolve existing issues or do you want to see what could be an issue in the future?

Most safety efforts tend to focus on lagging indicators. Organisations often panic after an incident and try to see how they can avoid it again. 

While this is valid, it is a mistake to ignore leading indicators. These can help prevent incidents before they happen, reducing unnecessary costs, injuries, fatalities, and more. They better direct your decision-making process and encourage an active rather than responsive approach to safety.

For nuanced and competent health and safety efforts, you should have a mix of both. You should analyse existing and historical problems and also actively track and identify potential causes.


Examples of Lagging and Leading Indicators in Safety

Examples of lagging indicators include:

  • Lost time
  • Insurance and workers’ compensation costs
  • Incident frequency
  • Incident severity


Examples of leading indicators:

  • Employee and team safety education
  • Risk factor analysis
  • Risk factor resolution
  • Audit and inspection frequency
  • Root causes of near-misses


Final Thoughts

Deciding which indicators to use and how influences the nature and success of your safety policy. They impact whether you’re more proactive or responsive and the cost of incidents to your business.

Costs can include employee work time lost, insurance costs, legal fees, and more. Utilise both leading and lagging metrics for a better structure and improve workplace safety.


If you're looking for a platform to collect more data to have better lagging and leading indicators in safety, we've got you covered. Falcony is easy-to-use, boosts two-way communication, has customisable workflows, automated analytics, vast integration possibilities and more. Start your 30-day trial or contact us for more information.

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By doing this, we are making work more meaningful for all parties involved.

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